The current BBC Royal Charter and Agreement, which came into effect on 1 January 2007, included the setting up of a Public Value Test (PVT) regime to assess whether the BBC’s proposals to launch new services in future – or to amend existing services – would be in the wider public interest.
The decision as to whether to authorise the proposed services sits with the BBC Trust (the Trust). In reaching its conclusions, the Trust must take into account the findings of two separate reviews. The first – the Public Value Assessment (PVA) – is commissioned by the Trust directly and seeks to assess the broader public value of the proposed service to UK citizens and consumers. The second – conducted by Ofcom – is a Market Impact Assessment (MIA). The purpose of an Ofcom MIA is to assess the likely impact of the proposed services on products and services which are substitutes or complements to the proposed BBC service.
This document sets out the findings of Ofcom’s third MIA to be carried out in the context of the new PVT regime. It considers the market impact of the BBC’s proposed Gaelic Digital Service (GDS), based on a partnership with the Gaelic Media Service (GMS). Where we refer in this document to the BBC-proposed GDS this is in the full knowledge that the proposal is based on this partnership. The MIA has been conducted in accordance with the GDS MIA Terms of Reference, and with the MIA methodology agreed between Ofcom and the BBC Trust.
In July 2007, the BBC Executive applied to the BBC Trust for permission to introduce a new GDS. This application built upon a co-funding agreement between t he BBC Executive and GMS to provide the Gaelic Digital Service – drawing on content from the BBC and a variety of other providers.
The proposal is to launch a dedicated digital TV channel in Gaelic – on-air for up to seven hours per day (concentrated in, but not confined to, late afternoons and evenings). This would comprise 1.5 hours per day of originated programming (including existing output from the BBC ), narrative repeats and archive content. The service would also draw on BBC Radio nan Gàidheal as a sustaining service when the TV channel is off-air. There would also be significantly enhanced Gaelic content for users of bbc.co.uk. The service would be mixed-genre – including the daily news and weather in Gaelic.
The stated intention is for at least half of the programme fund contributed by GMS to be spent in the independent sector. It is further intended that, in due course, up to 50 per cent of non-news and current affairs programmes on the TV channel would come from independent producers, subject to a sufficiently developed independent Gaelic production base. The content supply strategy would be formulated after further negotiation with key stakeholders.
It was expected that the service would launch before the end of March 2008. It would be available, in the first instance, on satellite and broadband and on digital cable later in 2008. Distribution on digital terrestrial television would be in Scotland only and would come with digital switchover.
Following completion of digital switchover, the existing regular Gaelic zones on BBC Two would be withdrawn. The BBC and GMS would continue to provide programming to the Gaelic digital channel TeleG for the duration of TeleG’s licence unless a decision were to be taken by Government to vary the terms of that licence. The licence, as currently defined, expires in 2010.
The proposed Gaelic Digital Service would be licensed and regulated by the BBC Trust, and would be subject also to Ofcom regulation to the same extent as any other BBC service. The BBC proposes to manage the service jointly with GMS, although ultimate responsibility for editorial standards would rest with the Director-General of the BBC .